What Would It Take For Friday The 13th To Finally Return?

A case could be made that the Friday the 13th franchise is to horror what Star Wars is to science fiction. The fans so desperately want more that they’d willingly buy tickets for just about anything, regardless of quality. Given that (arguably irrational) enthusiasm, the people tasked with keeping the franchise alive should be cranking out a new instalment every year or two, preferably on an actual Friday the 13th. This year alone, there are two golden opportunities, but the franchise has been dormant for nine years because no one can figure out how to get one of these dopey movies made.

Actually, it seems the endless delays and cancellations are the result of studio cluelessness and/or indifference. Rather than embrace the Blumhouse model—keep the budget low, spend big on marketing—Paramount keeps steering the franchise in a more bloated direction, making this sure thing a more uncertain investment.

According to producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller (longtime partners with Michael Bay in Platinum Dunes), the latest attempt—which was cancelled early last year—had a great script by Prisoners scribe Aaron Guzikowski, but with so much on the line, the studio decided to pull the plug when (the universally panned) Rings underperformed. While subsequent films have re-established the genre’s commercial appeal, Friday now finds itself stuck in a lawsuit with original screenwriter Victor Miller.

“Fans think it’s so simple, that if we want to make the movie we can go make it, and that’s just not the case,” Fuller recently told JoBlo.com. “There are rights issues. Originally, Warner Bros. owned the rights, then Paramount had them for a couple of years, and now I think the rights are reverting back to Warner Bros. At the same time, there’s this ongoing lawsuit with Victor Miller. If there’s a lawsuit hanging over the rights, it’s problematic. You can’t really make the movie until that gets settled.”

Fair enough, but before this lawsuit complicated matters, Fuller and Form were in an ideal position to peel back the Hollywood excess and return Friday the 13th to its down and dirty roots, even if that meant bringing in some fresh blood. Like most of Hollywood, the Friday gatekeepers would rather deliver a mildly appealing blockbuster than a more modest success that hits the bull’s eye with a select—but still substantial—niche audience.

Unfortunately, this has forced them to subject the franchise to a level of scrutiny it can’t possibly withstand. When Friday the 13th was in its heyday, strategic calculation was kept to a refreshing minimum. Sure, some entries were better than others, but part of the fun was waiting to discover what ludicrous conceit they’d come up with next. Jason in the big city (Jason Takes Manhattan)? Jason in space (Jason X)? Jason in the hood (TBD)? Instead of embracing this tradition, the franchise’s stalled masterminds seem determined to offer something perfectly generic, an anonymous commodity that fits in with all the other horror duds.

Rather than embrace the franchise for its past (at a moment when ’80s nostalgia is at its peak), they seem determined to over-think the un-over-thinkable. If and when the legal troubles are resolved, the solution is Crystal Lake clear: hire a talented filmmaker who loves the franchise, hand over $5 million, and let him or her do whatever the hell they want. Paramount, Warner Bros., and Platinum Dunes just need to get out of the way. If only there was a machete-wielding maniac who could help with that.